Alana Walker is changing the face of gymnastics for Jamaicans by winning the bronze medal for gymnastics in an international competition. This is the first time Jamaica is winning a medal of any sort for gymnastics on such a global stage.
The 14-year-old placed third in the women’s artistic gymnastic All-around competition at the Junior Pan American gymnastics championships in Mexico last week.
Born to Jamaican parents, this is the first time Walker is representing the island. She was initially competing for team USA and even won the US Nationals at Level 10. She made the USA development squad in May 2021, according to Jamaica Information Service.
However, she made a last-minute decision to compete in the motherland of her parents. Officials including Marlene Hylton-Williams started making arrangements for Walker to compete. Hylton-Williams helped get a license for Walker while Naomi Valenza secured her late entry into the tournament.
The teenager’s win with a score of 49.850 landed her in third place in the all-around competition which saw young gymnasts compete at bars, beam, floor, and vault events. She automatically qualifies for the Junior Pan American Championships in Columbia later this year.
Jamaica is now on the map for gymnastics thanks to Walker. Usually, once any sport takes the name of the island internally, the locals get in on the sport.
According to Nicole Grant-Brown, the president of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association (JAGA), Walker’s medal represents a “major boost” for gymnastics as a sport in Jamaica and it is a clear indication the country can excel in the sport.
“Her placement at this event speaks volumes to her ability and talent and we are super, super excited that she has chosen to represent Jamaica at this time when we have launched our Junior Olympic program.
“She is a part of that program, and we look forward to her development and her transition into the senior category, as next year, she will become a senior and the road to 2024 Olympics would have started for her.”
The infrastructure for gymnasts especially these young hopefuls to train is in an abysmal condition. Officials believe Walker’s win could be the leverage the association needs to secure the much-needed funds to buy basic but important equipment like the landing equipment, according to jamaicans.com.
Currently, the one available “is not good enough at this time” and “just not up to the standard” for the sort of training Walker and the other gymnasts need to prepare for such international competitions.